We travel south. The layers peel away. They don’t shed easily. There’s resistance, a clinging to the tethers that bind. They’re strong cordage—these inventions to keep busy, applicable, and relevant. I can’t loose them all at once, I’d be lost to the wind, scattered at sea. But to cut one at a time leaves a limb free to explore the updrafts and probe at the seafloor.
We leave Bahia de San Luis Gonzaga and drive through La Sierra de la Assamblea, through cardon cactus, and trees out of a Dr. Suess book—tall with red-tufted heads and tiny trumpet-like appendages. I’m not sure how long the forty kilometers of washboard, rock and sand takes to cover. Sometime in the morning I take off my watch. We go the speed we need to go.
Further south on the Sea of Cortez, at Bahia de los Angeles, I pass through a whole day without worrying about commitments I’ve made to myself. I work on absorbing instead of structuring, instructing, and containing. I listen to the slapping pattern of our kayak across the swells. I watch the pelicans, flying in lines of four. They flap together and, like cyclists drafting in a line and arriving upon a slight descent, they all stop and coast, not at once, but in quick succession starting from the front and working their way to the back of the line until they are all effortlessly coasting inches from the water. After a few seconds the flapping starts again, front to back.
I appreciate the cool brightness—the refuge—of the van for our midday coffee. I respect the power of the sun. In the morning it wakes us as if it had been up a long time, it urges us from our sleep. And in the late afternoon, an hour before dark, it palls the desert isles in shadow, and gived us a brief softening period, a time for the eyes to look at where we have been without the glare of what is to come next.
These are days of attuning. Or retuning.
“The world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us.” Gary Snyder writes. “There are more things in mind, in the imagination, than ‘you’ can keep track of—thoughts, memories, images, angers, delights, rise unbidden. The depths of mind, the unconscious are our inner wilderness areas. The conscious agenda-planning ego occupies a very tiny territory, a little cubicle somewhere near the gate, keeping track of some of what goes in and out.”
Paige asked while we were paddling how I would spend my time if I didn’t have long to live. I told her I would work on loosening the self, that guardian of the gate, and strengthening my bond to the world. I’d walk, I’d listen, and I’d celebrate those around me. It wouldn’t hurt to start now.